UPDATE: Fire destroys Willis Avenue house Friday

Willis Avenue closed between 13th Street and 15th Street

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Firefighters spent six hours battling a slow-burning fire in a house at 2402 Willis Ave. early Friday, including tearing out virtually all the walls and ceilings on the second story.

The fire was reported about 1:45 a.m. Friday, and officers of the Perry Police Department responded and evacuated the occupants, Robyn Reitz and Todd, who were uninjured.

Perry Volunteer Fire Department First Assistant Fire Chief Brian Eiteman said the fire began when the homeowners accidentally drilled into an electrical line while using a power drill on the first floor of the house. He said the homeowners immediately smelled smoke and reported the fire.

Although the fire started where the drill bit hit the power line, it quickly spread upward between the walls of the balloon-frame house, Eiteman said, a construction method no longer permitted under modern building codes. He said the short-circuit in the house’s knob-and-tube wiring probably ignited insulation at points throughout the structure.

Eiteman said the 119-year-old house also lacked fire walls between the rooms and stories, so the blaze readily spread to numerous dead spots on the second floor.

He said some personal effects on the main floor can be salvaged, but the entire upper story had to be internally demolished in order to get at the fire. He deemed the house a total loss.

The firefighters called for extra manpower in the course of their labor-intensive efforts from the Dawson Station of the Perry Volunteer Fire Department and the Woodward Volunteer Fire Department.

The Dallas County EMS also responded to the incidents. Several firefighters suffered minor injuries from slipping on the ice, Eiteman said.

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